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BBC news outlets have led the way in highlighting the squeeze on school meals providers caused by sharply rising food prices.

In a survey of members just released, LACA found that food price inflation combined with recruitment issues meant that the school meals service was coming under real strain.

National and local BBC TV and radio plus its website have all carried reports of the survey findings today (July 4th)

Jacquie Blake, chair of LACA, said: “These findings should act as an urgent wake-up call. Many school caterers are at breaking point. Without adequate funding for school meals the most vulnerable children will miss out on what in some cases is their only hot meal of the day.

“Caterers strive to provide hot and nutritious school meals, but this is becoming increasingly difficult and is likely to only get worse in the coming months.

“Too many children are already falling through the cracks – their families cannot afford a paid school meal, but they are not eligible for Free School Meals (FSM). LACA have long called for the FSM entitlement to be extended, which is why we supported the National Food Strategy recommendation to extend FSM to all children whose parents earn less than £20,000 per annum.

“With families facing a cost of living crisis at home, it is even more urgent than ever that all children receive a healthy school lunch. This can only be achieved through sufficient support for the sector and we are calling on the government to act now to ensure that schools are able to continue feeding children.”

Brad Pearce, vice chair of LACA, spoke to the BBC about the situation in Plymouth where he heads CATERed, which provides a meals service for more than 70 schools.

He said the survey had shown nationally that caterers had to contend with price rises of up to 30%, look to source cheaper meat from abroad or substitute cheaper cuts to continue delivering tasty, nutritionally compliant meals within budget.

“In my own experience we have had to stop using beef and switch to gammon, chicken has seen really high price rises so we’ve switched across to turkey, but it’s across all food groups, so it’s potatoes, eggs, pasta – all the things we need.”

He warned that if caterers were forced to raise the cost of meals it would put further strain on already stretched household budgets and potentially drive children away from the school meals service.”

Source: issued today, July 4th

LACA was established in 1990 and is the leading professional body representing over 1000 members drawn from across the school food sector representing public sector and private contract caterers and suppliers to schools, academies and MATs across the UK.